Woman rubbing her eye in pain

When headaches develop behind the eyes, they can cause great discomfort. In more extreme cases, they can be nearly debilitating. Those who experience these headaches during allergy season may assume that their headache is related to a sinus condition. However, that isn’t always the case. We have compiled some information here on the potential causes of headaches and how to differentiate between them. 

Sinus Infections

While we are all familiar with the term sinuses, few really understand what they are. The sinuses are best described as hollow areas in the skull that sit just behind the cheekbones, in the lower part of the forehead, and between the eyes. When these areas become inflamed, mucus accumulates in them, allowing for unwanted bacterial growth. 

Some symptoms of sinusitis include post-nasal drip, fevers, and headaches, all of which can last anywhere from two to four weeks. Cases of chronic sinusitis usually last a while longer – affecting the patient for as long as 3 months. If the patient is experiencing a headache without any signs of congestion, it is unlikely that it is a sinus headache. 

For patients who are experiencing sinus infection, there are ways to manage it. Steam therapy can break up the mucus and cause it to drain, and nasal spray helps keep the nasal airways open. Physical exertion also helps, as it can relieve pressure in the sinuses.

Eye Strain

Eye strain happens when the eye muscles are put to use for excessively long periods of time, making them become sore and fatigued. This commonly occurs when patients read for long periods of time without resting, drive for incredibly long distances, or strain their eyes in order to see in poor lighting conditions. In general, vision problems that go untreated will result in chronic eye strain. 

Patients who believe that their headaches are being caused by eye strain can usually benefit from a good night’s sleep. Over-the-counter eye drops are also a huge help, as they keep the eyes lubricated and prevent them from drying out. Beyond that, avoiding exorbitantly long periods of time staring at screens is a big help. Patients who work on computers should take a few breaks throughout the day.


It is estimated that about 12 percent of the American population is affected by migraines, which often develop behind the eyes. Beyond resulting in headaches, migraines may also lead to light sensitivity and nausea. When two or more of these conditions are present, it is safe to assume that the patient is suffering from migraines. This condition can result from various factors, such as weather changes, irregular sleep patterns, and hormone fluctuations. Bright lights, excessively loud noises, and strong odors can all trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.

While over-the-counter pain medications can provide relief from more mild cases, chronic migraine sufferers often need prescription medications to keep the pain under control. Nausea medications may also be recommended if needed. Recovery from migraines usually involves identifying the patient’s triggers through careful trial and error. While patients can take many steps in identifying their triggers themselves and providing themselves relief, it is always best to reach out to a qualified practitioner to help make a diagnosis and weigh in on treatment methods.

What Is the Takeaway?

While many headaches are indeed sinus-related, that isn’t always the case. Understanding the different types of headaches and what causes them can help patients better identify their issues and address their concerns. Patients should reach out to an experienced ENT to evaluate their condition before making any assumptions about their headaches. South Florida ENT Associates has a team of top ENT doctors in Miami and surrounding cities.

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